The preparation method of hydrogels has a significant effect on their structural and physicochemical properties. In this report, physically and chemically cross-linked poly(vinyl alcohol) (PVA) networks containing humic acid (HA) were alternatively prepared by autoclaving (AC) and through glutaraldehyde (GA) addition, respectively, for agricultural purposes. PVA/HA hydrogels were comparatively characterized by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, thermogravimetric analysis, mechanical assays, scanning electron microscopy, swelling kinetics measurements, and water retention tests in soil. AC hydrogels showed a more homogeneous porous microstructure, higher swelling levels, and a better capacity to preserve the humidity of soil than those obtained by adding GA. Both PVA/HA hydrogels exhibited no phytotoxicity on cultivation trials of Sorghum sp., but the plant growth was promoted with the GA-cross-linked network as compared to the effect of the AC sample. The release behavior of urea was modified according to the preparation method of the PVA/HA hydrogels. After 3 days of sustained urea release, 91% of the fertilizer was delivered from the AC hydrogel, whereas a lower amount of 56% was released for the GA-cross-linked hydrogel. Beyond the advantages of applying PVA/HA hydrogels in the agricultural field, an appropriate method of preparing these materials endows them with specific properties according to the requirements of the target crop.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Published by American Chemical Society